Best of our wild blogs: 29 May 17

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with NUS Toddycats! on 11 Jun 2017
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Shit Gets Real - 7 Dung Spiders and their Remarkable Mimicry
Macro Photography in Singapore

Short Afternoon Walk At Windsor Nature Park (27 May 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma) @ Upper Thomson Road
Monday Morgue

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'Nearly all shark's fin sold here from sustainable source'

Association says it uses regulated fisheries; conservation groups want better monitoring
Priscilla Goy Straits Times 27 May 17;

Almost all shark's fin sold here is from sustainable sources, said the Marine and Land Products Association yesterday, following the release of a study on Thursday that found Singapore to be a top trader of the controversial delicacy.

The group represents companies in the fishing and marine industry, including about 10 involved in the shark's fin trade. This makes up about 70 per cent of the shark's fin industry here, said Mr Yio Jin Xian, a representative of the association.

He wrote in an e-mail to The Straits Times yesterday: "We constantly strive to provide sustainable products from countries with well-documented federal regulations on shark fishing... We are continuously seeking sustainable solutions in the seafood industry."

A report released on Thursday ranked Singapore as the third-largest importer (after Hong Kong and Malaysia) and exporter (after Thailand and Hong Kong) of shark's fin out of the 68 countries and territories studied. It imported 14,134 tonnes and exported 11,535 tonnes between 2005 and 2013.

The report by wildlife trade-monitoring network Traffic and nature group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) looked at figures from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

There are 30 shark and ray species threatened with extinction listed in Appendix I and II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites); permits are needed for trade in these species. However, the study noted that Singapore did not have species-specific product trade codes for all 30, so trade in the other species might be illegal and unsustainable, but goes unnoticed.

Mr Yio said the association "strictly follows Cites regulations and international laws on endangered species". All shark's fin sold by members - which he estimates at about 90 per cent of what is sold here - is from sustainable sources, he added. The fins are from sharks processed in First World countries with fisheries that are regulated and have restrictions on the amount fished each year, he said.

"Those countries require the sharks to be fully used, so typically, the fins are shipped to Asian markets, and the rest is used in Western countries for dishes like fish and chips. Those fins are not processed on boats by fishermen who cut them off and throw the dead sharks back in the sea. It is the whole shark that's used, not the fins alone."

Said WWF-Singapore spokesman Janissa Ng: "With a quarter of the shark species in the world facing extinction, defining what is sustainable goes beyond quotas and sales practices."

There are no shark fisheries that have been independently certified sustainable; nor are there systems that can track shark products back to the point of harvest, she said.

"The Singapore authorities need to take measures that lead to greater transparency in the global shark trade, such as more robust monitoring of species-specific trade volumes, so there is a clearer picture of whether the trade of certain species is legal and sustainable," she said.

Related post
‘Sustainable’ shark fin sources not exactly sustainable yet Mothership 31 May 17

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A tiny island off Singapore may hold answers to energy’s future

Today Online 27 May 17;

SINGAPORE — On a small island off the southern coast of Singapore, a French energy company is experimenting with what it hopes will be the future of renewable power storage.

Engie SA is helping build a small, self-contained power grid on Semakau Island to demonstrate the usefulness of hydrogen gas in converting intermittent power from solar panels and wind turbines into stored fuel that can generate electricity days or even months later, when the need is higher.

Plummeting costs for solar and wind are helping renewable energy steal an ever-greater slice of the power generation pie from fossil fuels such as oil and coal. That makes it more and more vital to figure out how to spread out the brief but intense bursts of energy harnessed from the sun and wind to the more diffused needs of consumers. While battery storage has received most of the attention so far, hydrogen has “massive long-term potential,” said Didier Holleaux, executive vice president at Engie.

“Batteries are fine for intraday, or a few hours,” Mr Holleaux said in an interview in Singapore. “But if you produce energy in summer and need it in winter, or need it to last during a few cloudy days, then hydrogen would be the obvious solution.”

To be a solution, though, hydrogen storage costs would have to come down dramatically. A hydrogen-based energy storage system costs about 10 times more than a diesel back-up generator with similar power output, according to a Toshiba Corp. presentation at the World Smart Energy Week in Tokyo in March.

Hydrogen storage is basically a three-step process: electricity powers a chemical process know as electrolysis that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then stored until it’s needed, and is then pumped through fuel cells to generate electricity.

The biggest hurdle to commercial viability is the electrolysis process, Mr Holleaux said. Manufacturers are trying to make the water-splitting equipment cheaper and more efficient, but are probably 10 to 15 years away, Mr Holleaux said.


“If efficiency is low in terms of how much energy is consumed to produce a unit of hydrogen, then it is not that attractive to produce and store hydrogen, regardless of scale,” said I-Chun Hsiao, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The Semakau Island project, which Engie is taking part in along with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and France’s Schneider Electric SE, aims to build demonstration micro-grids that integrate wind, solar, tidal and diesel power along with storage to provide electricity to small island communities not connected to traditional power plants. The micro-grid is expected to be operating by October, with hydrogen storage capabilities added next year, Mr Holleaux said.

Engie sees big opportunities for such micro-grids in Southeast Asia, especially in the Indonesian archipelago, where nearly 1,000 islands have populations that don’t have access to traditional power plants.

“It’s a region that’s open to innovation,” Mr Holleaux said. “Many countries are ready to leapfrog directly from no power at all to a completely decentralised type of power, rather than going through the traditional centralised, interconnected network.” BLOOMBERG

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Confessions of a wildlife photographer: Shooting animals the right way

Wildlife photographer Kennie Pan says key to taking good pictures is knowing the story you want to tell
Hariz Baharudin The New Paper 29 May 17;

When asked what makes a picture good, award-winning wildlife photographer Kennie Pan is reflective.

The laidback 27-year-old told The New Paper: "It's not just about the gear.

"It is about who you are as a person and what is the story you want to tell."

The words sound more sincere coming from the self-taught shutterbug, who did not let his humble origins stop him from chasing his dream of capturing animals on camera.

Mr Pan said he started out 12 years ago, armed with just a simple entry-level camera he found at home, because he did not have enough money to get a camera of his own.

He studied shots by photographers he admired, thinking about how they got the photos.

"I look at their photos and I feel inspired," he said.

"I knew I probably would not be able to get the shots they got because I don't have the privilege or the money, but I still wanted to try."

Driven by his passion, Mr Pan saved up to go on self-funded expeditions.

His interest has led him to stalking tigers at an Indian safari and seeking out rare kingfishers in the Philippines.

But the images that have won him awards were taken right here in Singapore.

In 2010, Mr Pan nabbed the prestigious grand prize (junior category) in the Biodiversity Wildlife competition.

The photo he took of a long-tailed shrike in a residential area came out on top out of 2,200 photos that were submitted.

Mr Pan got the shot using just a mid-range camera.

He said: "There is wildlife everywhere if you look... Every place has different species. It depends on what you want to shoot."

He was also a finalist at the One Eyeland Photography Awards in 2013.

The year after, he received honourable mentions in the professional category at the International Photography Awards, in the nature-wildlife category.

Whether it is trailing big cats, looking for an elusive snake or finding rare birds, Mr Pan said knowledge about the animals is just as important as the gear. To him, capturing the animals in their natural habitats is his way of offering a peek into their world.

"You have to know why you are photographing them, the story you wish to tell people when you take photos," he said.

"If not, you are just blindly shooting. You are just doing it for the sake of shooting.

"It is better to use your photos to say something."

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Malaysia: DoE stops RM1.2bil project “The Dubai of Ma­­lay­­sia”


ALOR SETAR: A RM1.2bil mixed de­­velopment project in Kuala Ke­dah, dubbed “The Dubai of Ma­­lay­­sia” has been issued with an immediate stop-work order.

The order against the Aman Laut project was issued by the Depart­ment of Environment (DoE) through a notice dated May 15.

The ambitious project comprises high-end bungalows, chic condominiums, malls and luxury eateries, which will radically change the skyline beside the seafront.

Yesterday, DoE director-general Datuk Dr Ahmad Kamarulnajib Che Ibrahim confirmed that his department had issued the order.

He said the project has yet to obtain the approval of the DoE but workers had started reclamation work at the site.

“This is in accordance with the Section 34AA (2) of the Malaysian Quality Environmental Act 1974 (Amended) 2012 that no work can be carried out prior to getting the approval of the department.

“Only after it has been approved can work be carried out,” he added.

A Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) survey found that an area a distance of about 1km out to sea had been reclaimed and nearly 10ha of mangroves along the coast had been affected.

Kedah Environment Committee chairman Datuk Dr Leong Yong Long said the decision made by the federal department was temporary until further notice.

It was done to protect the coastal and sea environments in the area.

“This is also for the developer to comply with the pre-requirement of an Environmental Impact Assess­ment (EIA) report before proceeding with the project.

“The Kedah government is equally concerned about the EIA and has no objection to the ministerial action pending a full EIA report,” said Dr Leong.

“However, there is some work still going on at the site on the mainland which had already been approved by local authorities.

“This should not be misconstrued as defiance of the stop-work order by the department or the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environ­ment,” he added.

Kedah Housing, as well as Local Government and Water Resources Committee, chairman Datuk Badrol Hisham Hashim said they would speak to the developers and ask them to resubmit the EIA report.

The project, which was also said to transform the skyline of Kuala Kedah fishing town and elevate its residential and business standards, faced protests previously from NGOs and about 1,000 fishermen.

SAM issued a statement in March questioning the work carried out without the approval of the DoE while the fishermen claimed the project would jeopardise their income.

They too called for the project to be stopped, stating that the project had contravened environmental regulations and destroyed the area’s mangroves, adding that this would threaten the coastal fishermen’s livelihoods.

Stop work order issued for Kedah project

ALOR SETAR: Aman Laut, a RM1.2bil mixed development project here dubbed the "Dubai of Malaysia", has been issued with an immediate stop work order.

The order was issued by the Department of Environment (DOE) through a notice dated May 15.

This was confirmed by DOE director-general Datuk Dr Ahmad Kamarulnajib Che Ibrahim.

"The move is in accordance with Section 34AA (2) of the Malaysian Quality Environmental Act 1974 (Amendment) 2012 that no work can be carried out prior to the approval of the department.

"Once it has been approved, only then should construction work be carried out," he said when contacted on Sunday.

The project, which comprises high-end bungalows, chic condominiums, malls and high-end eateries, was meant to transform the state, including the Kuala Kedah fishing town.

However, it was protested against by fishermen, who said the project had jeopardised their income.

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